Logistics has always been my passion. I’ve never wanted to do anything else and it’s what I do best. There’s something very satisfying about moving goods – particularly when I know that the parts in the back of my van serve a higher purpose.
A few years ago, for example, I began working for a contractor which supplies emergency parts to the RAF’s fleet of Search and Rescue helicopters. And while I’m only a small part of the supply chain, every time I switch on the TV and see a brave crew scooping a sailor up from angry seas, it gives me a thrill.
I remember the phone call that woke me at 3am on a Saturday morning, the one asking me to travel down to Truro, pick up a part and take it wherever it was needed. When I’m on the road, it’s quite humbling and inspiring to know that when the vital component I’m delivering is fitted to the helicopter it will be back in the air saving lives.
But if you’re a courier, how do you find interesting and fulfilling work like this? Firstly, having a good support network around you it crucial. In this respect, I’m particularly grateful to D.W Cook Transport, who really helped me to find my feet in the early days.
Secondly, while I’ve always been fairly resourceful, and pride myself on having quite a large network of contacts, there’s no way in the world that I could have found these opportunities off my own back. As an owner driver, I’m fully focused on getting goods from A to B and then finding my next job.
To win a plum contract like this, requires time – and it’s time that I don’t have. For instance, I’d have to be vetted by the contractor, by the Ministry of Defence and my skill set and suitability assessed. That process could take weeks or even months and all the face-to-face meetings would take me off the road.
Just as well then that Courier Exchange allows me to have my cake and to eat it too. It’s one of the biggest freight exchanges in the UK and in my view the best because it gets me access to some of the largest logistics companies in the UK. They can see all the feedback posted about my same day delivery business, Jet Speed Couriers.
In fact, they can examine the feedback for every job that I’ve completed in the seven years that I’ve been a member of Courier Exchange. If you treat every job as if it’s your first as I do, and your feedback from those companies you work for backs this up, then you maximise that opportunity to work with interesting people, on exciting projects that would be virtually impossible for an owner driver to secure on their own.
As well as putting me in front of some of the largest transport businesses in the country, CX gives them access to businesses like mine. You may think big logistics operators with dedicated despatch teams don’t need the little guy. But believe me they do. It’s reliable and trusted SMEs -that’s small and medium-sized businesses to you and me -that give them the confidence to take on large contracts in the grocery or manufacturing sector.
Why? Because by using the Live Availability Map (LAM) they know exactly where we are and when our vehicles are likely to become empty. They take it for granted. But imagine if suddenly that visibility was taken away from them. Imagine if they were unable to access the extra capacity and experience and professionalism that we provide.
It’s fair to say that some of them wouldn’t be able to operate, and those still able to would most likely incur much higher costs. But the Exchange ensures that we all get our fair share of loads.
Another point worth mentioning is that the Exchange lets me be me. In other words, it allows me to run my business the way I want it to be run. Working through the Exchange means that I can choose who I work for, and who works for me when I post loads, which I do around thirty times a month.
And while I love the flexibility that CX gives me – in that I can work the hours that I want – it also allows me to create a profile telling my customers who I am and what I do best.
In my case, before joining the Exchange I spent many years working in warehouse distribution Before the recession hit a decade or so ago, I was a warehouse manager for a large manufacturing company. So when I moved into freight in 2011, I was able to use that experience to my advantage.
Leicestershire, where I’m based, is a hotbed for logistics. Two of the largest distribution centres in Europe – Magna Parkin Lutterworth and Dirft in Rugby – are close by and much of the work filters through them. But they can be confusing places to be for inexperienced couriers, as they’re as big as small towns.
So to know them inside out like I do gave me an edge. Why? Because I had a good understanding of their layout, and how they worked, I was always able to guarantee that that collection or delivery -which is the single most important part of a job -was always smooth and efficient. It may seem a small thing, but first impressions really count. Proving that I could deliver a professional service really helped me to build my reputation in the early days.
Nowadays, that’s not so much of a concern. I’ve built a large network of clients that I trade with, and win around 70% of my loads from direct bookings. If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s loads that go from member to member without ever touching the Exchange. For me, they show the Exchange and those who belong to it at their most dynamic. For those who benefit most from direct bookings are also the most agile members and most trusted members.
Okay – so CX’s tracking technology can greatly improve your chances of being in the right place at the right time, but on the other hand, no amount of technology can build a reputation. That’s up to you. And so when contractors place direct bookings, it’s feedback record that counts. That means demonstrating energy, enthusiasm and commitment for every job.
As the famous saying goes, you don’t have to love logistics to deliver a professional service. But to do it well, it certainly helps.
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